New Scenario Preview – Ambush!

Here’s a new scenario! I’ve had the privilege to help with some of the play testing for some of the new product coming out from Firelock Games and this scenario was a lot of fun and I wanted to share it with the community. Like anything that is unreleased, this scenario is still a work in progress so don’t count on it looking 100% the same when it comes out. Feedback is helpful at this point as well so please leave a comment if you like/don’t like what you see or have any thoughts at all regarding this scenario.

Ambush is a fast paced scenario that throws player right into the action from turn one! I played a solo test game with two 100 point forces and I was going to do a battle report but within a couple days, the unfinished Spanish Mission Garrison faction had completely changed so I don’t want to share outdated and useless information.

As is typical, this scenario uses a 3×4′ board but it can only be played on land. 90% of the area terrain is placed within 16″ of the two long table edges which leaves a “corridor through the wilderness” which represents a road or path. No terrain which would block line of sight can be placed in that long corridor.

The Defender gets choose a short side of the board as a deployment edge then place their units in that corridor within 16″ of that deployment edge.

Then the Attacker gets to place half (rounded down) their units anywhere on the board but must be more than 8″ away from any of the Defender’s units. The other half of the Attacker’s units will be deployed from any board edge using the Reserves rule.

This all combines to set the Attacker up for a deadly first blow against the Defender’s force, especially if the Attacker is able to activate first on that opening turn.

Objectives

In addition to standard casualty Strike Point rules the Defender can give the Attacker Strikes by moving models off the board edge opposite their original deployment zone. Run and get help! The Attacker gains one Strike Point for every 25% of the Defenders original force that escapes (just like casualty Strikes but kind of reversed). The Attacker can give the Defender extra Strikes by destroying entire units. The Defender gains a Strike Point for each unit that destroyed through casualties or routing.

This scenario really hits the ground running! No boring first turns here. The Attacker really needs to hit hard on that first turn but they can’t over commit because they are outnumbered at the beginning. But if they get a good volley in against a unit out of cover, it could even the odds by a lot! The Attacker’s deployment is also really interesting. How close do you want to be to that superior force? Do you deploy all your units on one side of the corridor so they can support each other or do you spread out to both sides so it’s harder for the Defender to rush towards escape? If all your units start on one side, the Defender can move to the opposite side of the corridor (killing zone) and then you have to cross it to pursue. Can you count on shooting first? Will you spend a Fortune to mulligan for a high card to take initiative? The force building for the scenario is also interesting. The mandatory use of Reserves kind of encourages using some large units to start on the board and smaller units to use as reserve reinforcements.

As the Defender you should have some interesting choices and options as well. You don’t get a lot of choice on your deployment and you may have to grit your teeth and bear that first unfair volley, but then you’ll have choices. Assuming you weren’t destroyed on the first volley, do you counterattack quickly and try to overwhelm the ambush force before the reinforcements arrive? Or do you move as quickly as you can to get off the board? If you run for the edge of the board, the enemy reserves could pop up right in front of you! If you start 16″ into a 48″ board, you have 32″ to run and that’s a full 8 move actions, assuming you’re not moving through rough terrain. That’s a lot of actions used to move which means you aren’t firing and reloading. Or you could just run off the road and form a defensive line. You don’t have to try to get away. With the possibility of enemies entering the board from any edge, it could be better to just hunker down and fight it out. I’m guessing it will be a good tactic to threaten to move a smaller unit off the board which will force the Attacker to pursue it with his troops which might ease up pressure on your main force so they could counterattack or at least gain the upper hand. I guess you can’t do a lot by moving a really small unit off the board. As currently written, you have to move a full 25% of your force off the board and that isn’t easy. If you attempt the escape with a large unit then they take enough casualties that they don’t make up that full 25% of your force, that would feel terrible. My instinct would be to have the Defender’s goal have the same reward as the Attacker and each unit that escapes gives a Strike Point to the Attacker. Then the Defender has an interesting choice to make when building their army. More smaller units means they could potentially have more units escape faster and give out Strike Points but they’re also much easier for the Attacker to destroy which generates Strikes for the Defender. Seems fun to me!

Choosing a power level for a commander is another difficult choice for the Defender. A more powerful commander with more Command Points will help the entire force move out of the killing zone faster on that first turn, but on the flip side, your commander is going to be exposed and a high value target on the first turn as well! I’m liking the hard decisions that this scenario serves up! What do you think? Does is sound fun? Does is sound fair?

It’s asymmetric which can be really fun but its also makes it hard to get the fairness balanced. I think players have to understand the perks and dangers of their situation before going into this battle to make it balanced. This might not be a great scenario for players of widely different experience levels. But it could be a good demo  scenario just because of the “drama” and story that come with it.

Test Game

Here are some pictures from a 100 point solo test game I played. I had a 3×3′ board all set up which wasn’t ideal but I made it work by just having the Defenders start 4″ from the board edge instead of 16″.

Nice peaceful road. What could go wrong?

I probably shouldn’t have made the killing zone so wide and bare but it made for a dramatic game.

I set up the defending North American English Militia 32″ away from the escape board edge.

I deployed 2 fairly large Spanish units 9″ away from the unsuspecting English.

The initial Spanish volleys hit pretty hard but didn’t destroy the English.

The English had to use most of the first turn to get out of the killing zone. Command points really helped.

The English Militia faction ability helped keep units morale up as they took fire and moved off the road. It really felt like an ambush!

I stopped to fire a little. Can’t just run! It’s not the English way!

By the end of the first turn the English and Spanish were on opposite sides of the clear space. Now the Spanish had to run across that open area to continue the attack. 

The second turn was a shootout across the open space until the Attacker’s reserves deployed behind the Defender and started lobbing arrows into their flank. The Defender needs to be careful of the board edges because those Reserve units can deploy on any edge which could make for an unpleasant surprise charge!

Now the Defender had to fight on two fronts. They could turn and destroy the small harassing reserve unit if they focused, but that would let the main Spanish cross the road in safety. 

Helped along by the vexatious fauna event, the Spanish started moving across the open space while the English shifted forward in an effort to find better cover and push the smaller reserve units towards the escape edge.

The Inexperienced English Militia felt slow and cumbersome moving through the forest and they presented the Natives easy targets with their u8 Shoot Save. It felt so thematic! The English Commander kept having to help them rally or move out of harm’s way.

The English made a defensive line in the forest and tried to hold on and beat back the Attackers as the pressed in

The last of the reserve come up to reinforce the first unit, effectively blocking the English path off the board.

Turn 4 was a siege while the Spanish pressed from all sides.

By turn 5 the Spanish were pressing in on all sides but at least the English didn’t have to worry about more reserve popping up right behind them. It was clear at this point that no English units were making it off the board and they just had to survive or shoot down the attackers.

The English beat back the Spanish Soldados and it appeared things were looking up for the battered English, in spite of continued casualties mounting on the English Militia.

Then on the last turn the Milicianos Indios found a chance to charge and they would have massacred the English command unit if their Saves hadn’t been above average.

And the English counterattacked and the Indios didn’t appreciate that! They were all killed or panicked and routed.

At this point the Spanish could only shoot off some final arrows and withdraw. Their ambush had not gone well. They hadn’t been able to destroy any of the English units and while they had killed around half the English force, they had sustained slightly more casualties than their enemies.

With neither side having accomplished one of their objectives, victory came down to casualties and the Spanish had more points worth of dead so England was victorious. 

I think the first couple turns were the most exciting as both sides had to make crucial decisions in high risk/reward situations. By the mid game it had turned into a desperate struggle for survival for the English but Spain just didn’t have the resources/luck to push the assault. If that Indios charge had done more damage, that could have killed the English commander and their strongest unit and they would have quickly collapsed.

It was a good game! I think this scenario could produce some “swingy” games where one side wins quickly and decisively but it will also be a fun and dramatic experience. It seems to be fairly balanced at this point but something like this can’t be absolutely balanced in every case with so many variables. The composition of the two armies, the choice of terrain, setup placement and that first initiative card will all play important roles in how this scenario plays out and that sounds like the making of a fun gaming session! 

How does the scenario look to you? Exciting, or too brutal for the Defender? This scenario is still in development so you’re feedback could effect the scenario design! 

Thanks for reading and thanks to Firelock Games and specifically Mike Tunez for letting me play test and share this.

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